23 Weeks 4 Days- Starting on Level 4

Dec 20, 2004 | Stitch's Story

Before breakfast I read through Level Four. One thing seems excessively easy – Retrieve. One thing seems excessively difficult – Stand from Sit, 10′ away from me, on one cue, and with no food.

We start with testing the retrieve. I have two objects – scent articles – one wooden and one metal. I hand her the wooden one, she takes it correctly in her mouth and holds it. Good girl. I hand her the metal one. After licking it twice (in case there might be Cheez Whiz on it, I guess), she takes it and holds it correctly. Retrieving done.

Now the Stand. She has a very good Sit from standing up OR lying down. I got the sit from down by luring it enough times for her to be familiar with the plan, then asking for it and gently bumping her front foot with my toe. Not exactly pure shaping, but it worked. Another thing I tried was asking for the Sit and then leaning slightly toward her. Same result, and she seems to have a good solid spot in her brain for “Sit from Down”.

I start the Stand by luring it a few times with her nose going down/back to her throat. She’s very good at this and her back feet pop out into position. The first few times she sits again as soon as she gets the click. The fifth time the principle of laziness takes over and she starts remaining standing. At this point, I start giving the cue to Stand (Outstanding!), wait a half second, then tap her foot with my toe. X14 for the first spontaneous Stand after the cue. I work once giving her the cue from Sit, then X5 giving the cue while she’s already standing, then ask her to Sit and start again. Once in a while I throw in a Down, then a Sit from Down, then the Stand from Sit. It’s great. Her success rate is up around 90%. Very nice beginning. The Level Four Stand no longer looks impossible. Or even particularly difficult. What a great puppy.

The further we get into a trained retrieve, the more fun her play retrieves get. Up to this point, she has always dropped what she was carrying if I called her. Today she brings it with her. Further, she has picked up several things specifically to bring with her when she’s coming in the house or into another room.

We have a large hard rubber ball that she’s been a bit leery of when it’s moving. This morning she chased it as it bounced away from her, and caught it in mid-bounce. Shocked, I threw a fuzzy toy up in the air, and she caught it as well. Now she’s picking up the rubber ball and dropping it, again and again, watching it bounce. She’s made a big step in manipulating her environment.

Stitch has her trick class tonight. I’ve nuked a couple of 5 yo freezer-burned wieners, cut them up and put the bits in the go-to-class container along with Kibbles & Bits and her regular kibble. This mixture is a HUGE hit. She pays total attention for 50 minutes. After that she’s still able to watch, sit, and come, but her higher thinker is retired for the night.

Before class starts, the instructor and I play the Come Game with her. When the rest of the class arrives and while they’re still galloping around before class starts, I walk her twice the length of the room on a loose leash with the other dogs randomly going past. And that finishes off Level Three.

When I left home last week, I was thinking of her as a fluffy little baby puppy. If I took her out, it would be a wrestle and a major event requiring preparation, concentration, and giving up a lot of MY priorities in order to take the puppy with me. Being gone for a week has given me the chance to see her as she is today with new eyes. She’s a young dog lacking somewhat in experience but with a very good handle on a lot of skills.